Define and Develop: Unique yet Unified

Dan New, Assistant Principal, Prince of Peace Lutheran School – The staff at Prince of Peace is elbow-deep into the Develop phase – right in the thick of implementing our prototypes – and the lessons we’re learning are transformative. At a recent Professional Learning Day, we took some time to lift our eyes up to see where we are, where we’d come from, and the distance we’d traveled in realizing our Year One 2023 Innovators by Design plans. We reflected on the insights that emerged about our learning community during the Discover phase, the hunches we followed that led to the development of our prototypes, and what we’ve learned so far. It has been an encouraging journey and it’s fuelling our drive to dig deeper. 

Interestingly, through the design process staff created eight prototypes from our “How Might We” questions, yet there are close links between many of the goals and prototypes that resulted. Many of our prototypes centre around the notion of collaboratively engaging learners in the assessment cycle to empower reflection.  

Realizing these prototypes has meant several classrooms are working students through the stages of design and engaging them in assessment processes, including the development of visual outcomes to illustrate success and the tools needed for reflection.  

These prototypes have transformed the traditionally teacher-driven role of communicating assessment to become one which meaningfully includes students. Valuing students’ understanding of outcomes and their associated achievement has created opportunities for students to have voice and choice in how they are being assessed. Teachers commented that this has given greater importance to clarifying learning targets. They described how meaningful student reflection requires a clear pathway to success and has pushed students to strengthen their understanding of what they are to be achieving. There has been a tangible change in the dialogical nature in our classrooms. Teachers are shedding the discomfort of allowing more time. They are slowing down and giving way to students to invest in where and how they develop curricular understanding. These unique learning pathways serve to address the diversity in our classrooms, as well as give teachers the opportunity to integrate student reflections throughout the learning process, not simply at its culmination.  

The staff have also identified how including students in the assessment and instructional design processes have increased students’ engagement and achievement. The flexibility afforded to students and staff surrounding learning ultimately translates to deeper learning that is unique, and frankly innovative. Our learning as a staff is paralleling that of our students. As our students set goals, prototype, and reflect in classrooms, we as a staff are doing the same. This shift in instructional design and assessment is still very much a learning process, but our early reflections encourage us to continue to prove its inherent worth.   

"To prove a thing means primarily to try, to test it… Not until a thing has been tried — “tried out,” in colloquial language — do we know its’ true worth. Till then it may be pretense, a bluff. But the thing that has come out victorious in a test or trial of strength carries its credentials with it; it is approved, because it has been proved". (Dewey, 1910) 

Reference 

Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think. D. C. Heath & Co.